Western View: The Prairie Fires

Taylor HillmanFeatures, Western View

Most of us in Agriculture are aware that areas of the midwest were devastated by massive wildfires in March of 2017. The fires were headline news for a couple of days, but those headlines faded quickly. Many people outside of agriculture had no idea just how unbelievably huge the fires were. The losses were terrible; entire ranches burned, cattle killed outright or even worse, burned so bad they had to be put down in the days after the fire. buildings and fences were burned to the ground and a number of lives were lost.

Western View

The numbers are so big they are almost incomprehensible. There were over 7,000 individual fires, that burned more than 2 million acres – more than 3,000 square miles. Fire swept through a hog farm in Oklahoma, killing more than 4,000 hogs. In Texas alone, 1500 cattle were killed. The cost to replace the fences is estimated at $4 million. Property losses are at least $6 million more.

Nearly a hundred years ago both of my parents grew up on the prairie – my mother, especially, remembered prairie fires that filled the sky with smoke and ash and sometimes came way too close to the house. So this massive fire isn’t a new thing. I expect that what happened after wasn’t too different that what happened this year, out there on those grasslands. After the smoke cleared, the people would pick themselves up, dust themselves off, help mend the injured and bury the dead, then rebuild. They may not have expected help, but they would get it. just as our ranchers did today.

It began as a trickle of postings on Facebook, then became a flood of supplies – hay, food and drinking water at first, followed by clothes, fencing supplies, canned goods, and more. Trucks hauled hay from as far away as California to the devastated towns. The local feed stores made space for the donations and community service clubs set up volunteers to help move all the stuff that came in. Cash flowed to local charities, who knew best how to pass it out. It was people helping people, farmers and ranchers in small towns around the country feeling the loss and wanting to share the burden.

Yes, the fire was awful. But the heartfelt response of the agricultural community is doing a lot to heal the damage that was done.

And that’s why we love living in the country.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.